Blog

Keeping up with home maintenance

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Plant & soil debris around air conditioning unit

Not many people enjoy doing home maintenance tasks, but deferring those chores can add up when it comes to selling your home. Many of my inspection findings are directly related to deferred maintenance, and those findings create lots of tension for buyers, sellers, and realtors. In a recent transaction, a $300 kitchen appliance almost blew up the deal.  Keeping up with home maintenance leads to a smoother sales transaction, and it will enhance the enjoyment of your home while you live in it.

When doing an inspection, I work from the outside in, so here are my tips for keeping up with outside maintenance.

  • Repair cracks in concrete walkways and patios
  • Monitor places where water can get in like windows, electrical panels, or stucco cracks, and remember to point sprinkler heads away from your home
  • Service pool equipment regularly, and maintain all deck coatings
  • Conduct annual roof maintenance

Once inside the home, there are two categories of maintenance: MEP (Mechanical, Electrical, and Plumbing) systems and general.

MEP systems maintenance:

  • Service HVAC regularly, change filters, replace refrigerant when required, clear plant and soil debris away from equipment; a tuned system runs more efficiently and saves on energy costs;
  • Know the age of your HVAC so that you understand when it’s coming to the end of its useful life and may need to be replaced
  • Monitor water heater for leaks and changes in temperature; remember to use the vacation setting when you’re away on short trips
  • Verify that electrical outlets located near water sources are GFCI protected, and replace cracked or missing electrical cover plates
Taking care of general home maintenance will make your life easier as you live in your home, and it shows pride of ownership at resale time.
  • Clean windows, screens, and slider door tracks
  • Repair running toilets and dripping faucets
  • Repair or update appliances when problems arise

If you’re curious about the state of your home prior to listing it, I recommend doing a pre-sale inspection to highlight needed repairs before you’re facing a deadline or are in the midst of negotiating a deal.

 

 

Beginning a Successful Home Renovation

I just finished reviewing the contract and scope of work for a large residential renovation project, so I’m sharing the advice that I gave my client as she began her renovation.  At the start of any project, I check licensing, insurance, and then carefully review the contract.

Licensing:  Ask your General Contractor (GC) to provide their license number so you can verify they are licensed and in good standing with the Contractors State License Board.   Make sure that the license is active, and that the proper bonds and insurance are current.  If there are complaints on file, read those and check to see if they were resolved.  If there are mechanical or electrical changes/additions in your project, ask the GC to provide the license numbers for all of the sub-contractors on your project.  If you must submit drawings for a permit that requires an Architect’s stamp, you can do the same check using their license number at the California Architects Board.

Insurance:  GC’s, architects, and designers all need to carry insurance for their protection and yours.  All of these professionals should carry General Liability (GL) insurance, so ask them to provide you with current GL certificates.  GC’s should also provide a Worker’s Compensation certificate, and designers should provide an Errors & Omissions certificate.  Each of these certificates needs to list you as “additionally insured”.  If you proceed without these certificates, you alone assume the risk and liability for the project.

Contract:  When reviewing the contract for the project, pay close attention to the project schedule.  Ideally, the schedule should have clear start and end dates for each task.  If that level of detail is missing, then it will be hard for you to hold the GC accountable to the schedule.  The contract should also state when progress payments are due. This will ensure that you are not paying for work that hasn’t been performed.  The final item, and one of the most confusing and potentially contentious, is the deposit paid upon signing the contract.  California law states that the deposit should be $1,000 or 10% of the project value, whichever is LESS.  Some GC’s will tell you they need a larger deposit to buy materials, and this indicates that they are cash-strapped and trying to stay afloat on other projects.

Managing your renovation will be stressful, especially if you’re in and out of town.  Hopefully these tips will help get you started; and if you’d like additional guidance, I’m an experienced construction manager ready to advocate for your interests.

Common inspection observations

 

 

This week I did several inspections, and each of the homes had some common observations.  Here are my top three along with tips for home owners:

  1. Missing  ground fault circuit interrupter (GFCI) receptacles:  these outlets are required by NEC (National Electric Code) for protection against electric shock–especially near water sources.  They are required in bathrooms, garages, outdoors, unfinished basements, crawl spaces, kitchens (including the receptacle for the dishwasher), laundry/utility/wet bars and pool/spa areas.  The most common observation is that GFCI receptacles are installed in bathrooms but forgotten in kitchens.  So, take a tour around the house to see where this common hazard may be hiding.
  2. Missing or improperly located detection devices for smoke and carbon monoxide:  building code requires one smoke detector for each bedroom, and carbon monoxide detectors installed outside each sleeping area in the immediate vicinity of the bedrooms on each level of the home.  This includes basements with fuel fired appliances like furnaces, water heaters and gas stoves.  Make a list of these areas in your home, and be sure that you know where each detection device is, and what kind of batteries it takes.  Put a note on your calendar, or a reminder on your phone, to check your batteries twice a year when you change your clocks.
  3. Roof debris:  I commonly see a build up of organic debris (leaves, berries, palm fronds, etc.) in roof valleys.  This is particularly common after a wind storm.  The strong winds can lift the tiles and debris gets wedged between the tile edges.  When built up roof debris gets wet, it can prematurely deteriorate the underlayment.  Premature deterioration can lead to dry rot of the framing, and create an environment conducive to mold growth.  This type of hidden damage can go undetected until it becomes a costly problem.  Check your roof quarterly, and after a big wind storm, to ensure that debris is not collecting in the roof valleys.

Home Inspection Do’s and Don’ts

While on an inspection last week, a client asked my opinion about some of the cosmetic items in the house, so I explained that I don’t include comments like that in the report.  In my 10 years as an inspector for construction defect litigation, I learned to report on material defects only because that’s what is legally relevant.  As a California Real Estate Inspection Association (CREIA) certified inspector, I adhere to CREIA’s standards of practice to provide the “general condition of the building”.

To become CREIA certified, I passed the comprehensive National Home Inspection Exam, provided documentation of at least 250 home inspections (I’ve done 3,000), and passed an ethics and professional standards exam.  To remain in good standing, I’m held to a strict code of ethics, and I’m required to meet annual continuing education requirements.  This is a rigorous process to certify that my clients are getting a best practice inspection to help them make an informed purchase.

Here are my Home Inspection Do’s and Don’ts:

  1. I follow California standards and best practices for all of my inspections
  2. I don’t include disclaimers or recommend that clients hire experts like plumbers and electricians unless it’s related to a material defect
  3. I don’t editorialize about cosmetic and aesthetic items because they are not material defects, they are matters of personal style
  4. I use my construction background and my inspection experience to provide a fact-based report on the general condition of the home and its systems
  5. I use a best practice workflow on my tablet to make sure that I’m thorough, consistent, and in compliance with CREIA standards to create the report

 

2018 Swimming Pool Update

Does your client have pool?  Are they aware of the new pool safety inspection requirements that went into effect in January, 2018?  If not, here’s some information that you can share with them.  The Swimming Pool Safety Act (SB-442) now requires homeowners to have at least two safety features to secure their pools, and it will change the way I report these items in my home inspection report.  To learn more, I’ve found two good resources.

Here’s a general overview story of what the law is trying to accomplish, which includes a full list of the seven safety features.  It’s easy to read, and good to share with your clients.  For more detail, you can review the California Pool and Spa Association FAQ’s.  Now that you’re more familiar with law, here’s how it changes  what I’m looking for.  In short, SB-442 requires the home inspector to:

1.  Identify which, if any, of seven specific drowning prevention safety features are present. Those safety features are defined in section 115922 of the Health & Safety Code.

2.  Specifically state if the pool or spa has fewer than two of the listed drowning prevention safety features.

It’s also important to remember that this applies to private pools and spas even if they’re within a gated community.  If you have any questions about SB442, or other home inspections topics, please give me a call.

 

Nice to meet you!

Welcome to my first post as a Coachella Valley Home Inspector.  I relocated my business from San Francisco to La Quinta in October 2017, and have been meeting home buyers and real estate professionals to share my experience and availability.  Here’s a bit about me.

I began my construction career back in the late 1970’s working as an laborer on large commercial buildings in Denver, Colorado.  My dad was a construction superintendent, and he helped me land a summer job carrying buckets of concrete in 100 degree heat!  I attended Colorado State University, and then went to work full time as a Field Engineer on large industrial projects like waste water treatment plants and shopping malls.

In the late 1980’s I had the good fortune to relocate to San Francisco, working as a project manager on a huge seismic retrofit project at the SFO Airport.  In 1994, I launched the home inspection side of my career as a FEMA Home Inspector after the Northridge earthquake.  Since then, I’ve inspected over 3000 California homes–mostly as an expert witness for construction defect litigation.

I look forward to using my broad experience to assist Coachella Valley home buyers on their path to desert living.  To learn more about my credentials, please visit About.  And, stay tuned for my next post on new 2018 requirements for swimming pools.